What do I mean by “authenticity” in the context of business and marketing, especially for us self-employed professionals?
Authenticity is to practice having no agenda, other than these purposes:
Let’s explore each idea…
Genuine expression of your best self:
Imagine that I were to give you an opportunity tomorrow (at a specific time) to play with some form of art that you enjoy. You’d probably prepare and show up ready to have fun and express yourself.
You wouldn’t show up in HALT mode (hungry, angry, lonely, or tired) I hope -- because you know that by being well-resourced with proper self-care, you’re able to engage better with self-exploration and expression, as well as improvisation and creativity that is authentically you.
There’s a lot in that statement. Let’s unpack it:
By prioritizing authenticity, you must first prioritize your self-care. Without being balanced (physically, emotionally, mentally), you will be negatively reactive to the circumstances in your life. You’ll also tend to prioritize other people’s standards and requests of you, to the detriment of your own deeper purpose.
On the other hand, when you are well-nourished physically and emotionally, you are more grounded in genuine Self-confidence. From that balanced beingness, you are able to engage in authentic expression and creativity.
Self-exploration is usually done with journaling, art, or other therapy. I encourage you to try “public journaling” which is to write about your life’s experiences publicly on social media, as honest as you can be, while knowing that your writing may also resonate with and serve others who are on a similar journey as you.
Enjoyment of the process:
When you're playing, you're not hoping to get to the end as quickly as possible. You're enjoying the activity. The process itself is delicious! And it generates the kind of authentic creativity that doesn’t happen when performing-for-perfection or trying to meet some standard.
Similarly, when we’re doing authentic marketing, we aren't fixated on the results, but we’re more interested in the play itself -- the experimentation of trying out a new way of expressing our message and expanding our reach.
Even if we already are good at some method of outreach, we can still enjoy the process by bringing more heart into some activity that we’re well-practiced at. Imagine a violinist who has practiced a musical piece so much that they can easily play it well. Now that they’ve mastered the technique, they can bring heart and soul into their creativity of expression as they enjoy playing the piece.
Let’s try to bring that kind of joy into our marketing as well. Yes, we do need to practice the techniques, for example, writing blog posts or running Instagram Ads, yet even such practices can be infused with curiosity and play. Then, once we have mastered the techniques, we can bring even more heart into the activity.
This is a genuine wish for the audience's well-being, whether or not they buy from you.
For me, this translates into doing marketing as a ministry, as a way of making a positive impact in the world, knowing that many more people will see my marketing than will actually buy. This is a simple truth for every business: more of one’s audience is impacted by the marketing, than actually end up buying. In fact, the more successful one’s marketing, the more this is true.
Once we realize this -- that our marketing itself is making a bigger ripple of impact in the world than our product itself -- then we come to see the importance, the sacredness, of the kind of impact we can make through our marketing.
Hopefully we will bring a genuine heart of service into making that kind of impact -- into all our marketing efforts.
When it comes to selling, or when the audience is considering buying from us, then it is about helping them find the right fit -- whether it’s with your product, or some other resource you can vouch for.
Results come when there's alignment with the audience's wants, but that's achieved through playful collaboration.
Authentic marketing is basically making friends at scale.
Consider your audience like friends you care about -- people you approach with your "real" self… as you would with “real life” friends.
As in any friendship, you can collaborate with your audience to create your content and offerings.
When you want to invite friends to play a game with you, you would naturally try to figure out together which game you all want to play together, and the rules of the game, before you play. In your marketing, the same should happen -- figure out, by polling your audience, what topics they want you to create content and offers about, and then create that for them.
In short, rather than pushing your agenda on your friends, you playfully work together to find what you would both be excited to do, together.
As you can see, marketing doesn’t have to be fake, nor does it have to be a necessary evil that we “must” do in order to be able to do our “real” purposeful work.
The activity of Business and Marketing, when framed properly, can itself be deeply human, friendly, and a contribution to our purpose and to a positive impact in the world. Business can be part of how we uncover more of our best self. This is what I mean by Authenticity in business.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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